Bachelor’s degrees hold little value today

By By Matt Homer

By Matt Homer

As students, we have been taught that a bachelor’s degree will increase our future earnings dramatically. This is true, but graduate degrees are rapidly becoming more essential and, in many areas, equivalent to our parents’ four-year undergraduate degrees. Today, an advanced degree is crucial to stay ahead of the game.

After graduation, each student faces the difficult tradeoff between finding a job and continuing on to further education. The choice is not easy, and some may choose to work for a while and decide later about graduate school.

Whichever course of action is chosen, it’s important to consider several current trends. Janet Yellen, president of the San Francisco Federal Reserve Bank, recently addressed a number of these issues in a speech at the Center for the Study of Democracy.

She reported that those with a bachelor’s degree or higher not only experience higher wages than those without similar degrees, but their wages are also increasing at a significantly higher rate. From 1973 to 2001, wages for those in the 90th percentile (mostly dominated by the university-educated) increased by a whopping 30 percent. This rate of growth towers over those who lie below the 50th percentile (high school diploma or less) who experienced wage growth of just 5 to 10 percent. Regardless of whether such a discrepancy is moral, this consideration is essential for any student to think about.

Especially interesting is the wage gap between various education levels. Since 1980, there has been a significant widening. Those with advanced degrees lead the field and are followed closely by undergraduate degrees; lagging far behind are those with only some college, high school diplomas and dropouts.

Despite the dramatic growth in wages, it appears that job security is weakening most among the college educated. Technology and globalization have eliminated some jobs and made others portable. For example, bookkeeping can now be done by computers and X-rays can be examined in India. College degrees are helpful, but it’s important to choose one that can’t be easily outsourced or replaced by technology.

So, when weighing post-graduate options, it’s best to decide carefully. Bachelor’s degrees are good, but advanced degrees are better. Moving directly into a job can provide a paycheck and valuable experience that can be carried on to graduate school. It may also supply some time to think about future options. One downside, however, is that it may be difficult to return to school after getting a full-time job.

A bachelor’s degree will propel you far in life, but a master’s degree will thrust you even farther. Yet it’s not enough to just get a master’s degree. It’s essential to find one that will remain competitive in a world of global competition and technological change.